In “The Australian” today (4 August 2008) Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd again misrepresents the views of Friedrich Hayek. He also did it before becoming elected (here).
After stating that he believes in a compassionate society, Rudd writes:
“That is why we explicitly reject Hayek’s view that society has no obligation to others who are unknown to us and his preparedness to allow fundamental social institutions such as the family to fend entirely for themselves against unrestrained market forces”.
I have read enough of what Hayek wrote to know that he would never write anything like: “society has no obligation to others who are unknown to us”. That statement makes no sense. It seems to suggest that “society” exists apart from the people who comprise it. Rudd might believe this, but Hayek was certainly opposed to that view.
Hayek recognised explicitly that in “a highly mobile open society, an increasing number of people are no longer closely associated with particular groups whose help and support they can count on in the case of misfortune”. He states:
“The assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone ... appears not only to be a wholly legitimate protection against a common risk to all, but a necessary part of the Great Society in which the individual no longer has specific claims on the members of the particular small group into which he was born” (Law, Legislation and Liberty, V 3, 55).
So, why does Rudd persist in misrepresenting Hayek? I don’t know. Perhaps he is suffering from a learning disability.